EDITORIAL: Are Some Best Picture Nominees Remakes of Flops?

By Scott Kurland

I recently watched the academy award winning and Best Picture nominated film, “Django Unchained.” Its been a few years since I saw it. Even though I do love the film, I realized something important on this viewing. “Django Unchained” isn’t just Tarantino’s love letter to Blaxploitation and Westerns,  it’s a remake of 1999’s “Will, Wild, West”. This may sound crazy, but bear with me here. The more I talk, the more it’ll make sense. Let’s look at both films shall we? 

“Wild, Wild, West” stars Will Smith as a former slave turned secret agent. “Django Unchained” stars Jamie Foxx as a former slave turned bounty hunter. Both men are the fastest draw around. They both have trouble trusting certain white people due to the abuse they received from being slaves. However, both have the support of the legal system for them to do their business.

They are both paired with affable white partners who carry gadgets on them. Not only do they respect their partners, but they also would die for them and vice versa. Both of these gentlemen are older than Django and Jim West and act as sort of a teacher figure. They also are well-read men of science and have traveled the world. Despite the company of West or Django being thrusted upon them, they enjoy the company they are in.

Now here’s where it got weird. With the exception of Kenneth Branagh being crippled and loving spiders, the villains are the same. DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie and Branagh’s Loveless have almost the same beard and feathered hair. They both talk with a half southern, half educated accent. They also believe that you have to keep the black man as a slave or you’ll get that 1 in 10,000 (Dajango and West) who will revolt. Both men also have very unconventional vices they know nothing about. DiCaprio’s Calvin loves all things French but has never been overseas. Branagh’s Loveless loves all things spider related, but is clearly unfamiliar with how poisonous they are. Just two ignorant villains loving things they know nothing about.

Yes, it’s very eerie. The real kicker here is that Tarantino wanted Will Smith to play Django. Freaky right? However this isn’t the only film where I noticed this connection. I noticed in “American Hustle” there’s a huge similarity between this film and “Mean Streets”. This one isn’t as in-depth, but you have the one guy trying to move up in life (Christian Bale) and the hothead (Bradley Cooper) getting in the way messing things up. This is not the strongest argument because both films are a bit different.

The list could go on forever and you’d find endless connections. “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days” was turned into “Silver Linings Playbook”. You have an over-zealous woman trying hard to push away the guy and also win him in the process. “Michael Clayton” the Oscar winning Clooney film is eerily similar to Travolta’s “A Civil Action”. However, the only people who died in “A Civil Action” were the people who drank the water...and the audience...God that’s a boring film.

I’m not bringing this up to be mean or point out the flaws in Hollywood. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I feel like they do this knowing they’re making up for so many hit-and-miss dramas. Its also possible that they are trying to apologize for all those Matthew McConaughey comedies where he’s always leaning backwards on the poster. I think Tarantino purposely knew what he was doing with “Django Unchained” because at the end of the film, Django’s outfit looks a lot like Will Smith’s “Wild, Wild, West” costume.

With the Oscars are two weeks away, this is the time people start re-watching films like “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Forrest Gump”, and “Chicago” in order to get ready for the broadcast. So next time you watch those films, I know you’ll start thinking, “Is this a good remake of a terrible film?” It’s a real head scratcher once you start thinking about it.
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